Date of Visit: February 22 2013
Aronia de Takazawa or the re-branded Takagawa was voted the #1 Restaurant on Tripadvisor before I left for Tokyo. It also came #31 in S.Pellegrino Asia 5o Best Restaurant 2013. From the reviews and blogs I have read, also famously difficult to book because it is a tiny restaurant with only 4 tables! So reservation was made 3 months ahead through emails with Takazawa’s wife, Akiko.
What an irony that our menu on that night was a whimsical game of hide-and-seek, because after 10 minutes of frantic searching and literally ticking off all the landmarks on the map provided, we could still not find the restaurant! Harry Porter’s Platform 9 3/4?? Lo-and-behold, as in magic, a doorway marked only by strip of backlit clear Plexiglas appeared. We were actually standing right in front of it! Shhh…
Happily, we went inside and up the stairs. We were greeted warmly by Akiko who led us to our seats.
The interior of the restaurant is very simple with clean lines of teakwood and steel. Chef Takazawa was already on his ‘podium’ busy cooking. I asked Akiko for permission to take pictures which she approved but requested that I do not take pictures of the Chef while he is working.
Our menu is themed : Enjoy Your Imagination and we have opted for the ‘Chef’s Special Tasting Menu of the Day’, 9 courses at ¥30,000
2008 Puligny Montrachet J.M.Boillou (¥21,000), especially chosen for us by Chef Takazawa. (Well, truth be told, he INSISTED because our first choice was a red which he thinks is too heavy and will not think pair well with his cooking. Since we are here for his cooking, we took his advice). Good call! He was apparently the youngest sommelier in Japan during his younger days (he has not hit 40 yet!). This French white is also his favourite.
AMUSE BOUCHE ONE
Dehydrated baby sardine crackers. Very tasty, crispy water-wafer-like with soy beans in the wooden box. Look closely and you would see the baby sardines! There is a story behind the beans, it is a tradition during the New Year, that the Japanese throw beans in tiny bags to get rid of demons and to also to eat the number of beans equivalent to their age so they be healthy and happy in the New Year!
AMUSE BOUCHE TWO
Sea urchin, oysters, octopus bits. Foam topped with yuzu bits. Broth is a savoury jelly with strong hint of citrus
These flavourful “sardines” are actually mackerels.
Treasure On Snow-Cap Mountain
Tempura of Japanese brussel sprouts which Akiko explained are akin to the truffles you find under the rocks – with a bit of luck thrown in. We were asked to ‘forage’ through the snow to seek for the treasure by wiping the snow flakes away – Voila! – I see a carrot! Everyone were laughing, how fun!!
15 different kinds of vegs all to eat in one mouthful. The game is to distinguish the taste. But can I? My mouthful was instantly a chomp of crunchy and limber texture of hard and soft. I could not distinguish all the flavours except for the hard carrot bit and the the salty kick from the tiny dab of volcanic salt and black bean sit precariously on the edge of the big, flat spoon!
Home-made bread and Rillettes de Pork.
As soon as Akiko and her assistant brought out the bread, the dining den became filled with the aroma of the freshly baked sultana and nut bread . The pot contains the sublime Rillettes de pork, which is a spread made of slow cooked, shredded pork in lard. It’s rich, flavorful, and absolutely astounding and smelt heavenly.
The crackle of a Snow – hidden ice – skin (NEW)
Chef Takazawa imagined a fish pond in Hokkaido. The edge of plate is sprinkled with salt to resemble the powder snow flakes by the lake. The vegs are actual vegs growing at the fish ponds.
Crack open the ice and fish for the Ocean trout!
Green Tea (NEW)
The tea is infused vegetable broth. Slightly bitter veg but freshing. Its essense is comparable chicken essence, no MSG! LOL
Green tea salt on the side of plate. Japanese calamansi, asparagus, Hokkaido beans, endame, peas
Hot Puchin Pudding (NEW)
Chef Takazawa has to stick his knife into edge of plastic container to take out the pudding. Quite a suspense for him, because his puddings must come out perfectly from the moulds. Puchin Pudding is a milky custard that the Japanese loved, here Chef Takazawa made a crab and prawn milky pudding minus any shellfishness into a smooth sweet custard.
Candle holder (2007)
Here, Chef Takazawa imagined a candle wick. In it his ‘candle’, he filled it with froie gras which he made into a creme brulee and a mango compote . He presents the candle with a biscotti for me to dip into the brulee and/or compote.
MEDE TAI (NEW)
‘Mede Tai’ is a fish literally translated ‘Happy Fish’. This is a very New Year dish, so the table has to be dressed up with a red tablecloth embroidered with Mede Tai fish in golden threads.
An al-dente risotto but unfortunately we couldn’t finish them because we were simply too stuffed by now and saw the Chef preparing our next course which is a huge rib with more delicious smell of grilled meats in the air! (Out goes calories counting…)
Hide and Seek (NEW)
This is a baby goat ribs with no gamey goaty gamey smell. The powdered snow is hazelnut oil infused with nitrogen. The juniper berries were foraged from the forest. Chef Takazawa said to eat with our hands
Time for ‘wash-up’, clean our hands
Winter Wind Citrus (NEW)
We were supirsed that Akiko and her staff brought out a real cherry blossom bonsai plant to our table. Stuck in the branches were Kumquats and Mandarins. The dehydrated Mandarin slices were crunchy outside but sweet and juicy inside. The Kumquat peels were sweet too. It would be beautiful to forage the fruits among the blooming flowers come Spring, oh well…
Le Pudding a la mode (NEW)
Mixed fruits, matcha ice-cream, compote and liquid nitrogen
This is a serious dinner of ‘Imagination’. I had the wonderful experience of both imagining and foraging. Chef Takazawa had clearly outdone himself, he is truely imaginative and capable of bring his imagination into an edible reality.
Dinner finished with us all very satisfied with a grin etched on our faces. Another highlight is Chef Takazawa personally escorting us to hail our taxi back to our hotel!